Environmental groups speak out about consequences of holiday consumerism


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This holiday season, environmental groups are reminding consumers that increasingly short-lived gadgets have an impact on the natural environment. (Curtis Palmer/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | November 29, 2017

U.S. shoppers spent $5 billion in 24 hours on Friday, making Black Friday 2017 a record haul for retailers. Whether it’s purchased online or in stores, the new Hatchimal or the Nintendo Switch, environmental activists warn that consumers should think twice about the impact these goods have on the environment.

Greenpeace, an independent global campaigning organization, reported that electronic goods alone are expected to generate 50 million tons of waste in 2017. Electronic goods like smart phones and laptops make up the quickest growing waste stream worldwide, less than 16 percent of which is expected to be recycled this year. About one-third of e-waste that is recycled is sent overseas to countries like Kenya and Pakistan to be taken apart by workers that are not protected from the toxic materials that can be found inside electronic gadgets.

Plastic is also a primary contributor to waste during the holiday season. Used for everything from toys to wrapping paper to grocery bags, more than 300 million tons of plastic is produced each year with about 8 million tons of it dumped into oceans annually. Plastic can take more than 400 years to break down and has mounted to form two enormous plastic islands in the Pacific Ocean, one of which is estimated to be more than one million square miles in size.

Friends of the Earth environmental activist Julian Kirby asked of holiday shoppers, “If you don’t need it or want it then don’t give them your money. If you are going to take advantage of what’s purported to be lower prices then don’t rush into it, think about whether it’s the most sustainable and ethical product and whether you might be able to get a second hand version that’s able to do just as good a job.”

Drake and Coe cut down on bottled water waste


Photo by djwaldow, Flickr.
Photo by djwaldow, Flickr.

Similar to the University of Iowa’s efforts, Drake University and Coe College are cutting down on bottled water use.

At Drake, a student initiative has led to a bottled water ban on campus starting next fall. All new Drake students will receive a reusable bottle at the start of the school year.

Coe College has been giving out reusable bottles to its students for the past five years. Both Coe and Drake have installed “hydration stations” on campus that make it easy to refill bottles.

Read more here.

Iowa City mom creates business to reduce bottled water waste


Photo by nist6ss, Flickr

An Iowa City mother of three has started a new business to reduce the waste caused by bottled water.

After realizing the negative impact bottle waste has on out environment, Swan decided to start Thirst Station. Her business produces purified water dispensers that require the consumer to provide their own bottles.

The Thirst Station’s purified water costs 40 cents, while other options such as flavored water cost up to $1.

Currently, Thirst Station’s are available in elementary, middle and high schools in Solon, and in the Iowa City School District administration building.

For more information, read the article from Iowa City Patch (includes a video demonstration), and check out the Thirst Station’s website.